I never worked with Sir Bernal, but it was hard not to know of him.
He designed the set for “Comfort Women” made out of bamboos. The lead actress would be bruised every time they had to go through her rape scene. Director Missy Maramara asked if there was any way to keep her from bruising. Bernal’s retort, “Let her adjust to the set.”
He never hobbled with a cane. He strutted, with confident strides down Gonzaga Hall. Rumor has it, he was sighted without his cane once. Why? “Style.” He said simply.
It was also for that reason he put huge lights in the wings during a ballet performance. Never mind that dancers exited and entered from there and had to watch their step. It was an inconvenience yes, but there was no better way to put light on the full form of the body. You could see it even if you were seated in the last seat of the last row of CCP Main Theater.
For Bawat-Tao (Everyman), he saw a see-saw to describe the delicate balance of life sought by Everyman. Say what you will about Metropolitan Theater Guild’s Midsummer Night’s Dream but most of its magic, I feel, would not be possible without Badong.
He was old-school: he screamed at people till they got it right. He even threw his cane at students. They say, the more he screamed at someone, the more promise that someone actually had. Sure enough, a blockmate that got the brunt of his temper sought him to be her thesis adviser. She did well.
Some other things told to classmates:
“Never allow yourself to be mediocre!”
“To create, you must learn to destroy.”
Difficult lessons that even I take pains to learn, over and over again.
I cried when I found out he had passed. I couldn’t understand why. “Because he is an institution. He’s one of those that made it possible to actually work in theater.” says a good friend, Mahar.
Sure enough, in his passing, there’s a change in the air. There is loss, yet, but then there’s the sense of so much more to come. After all, it’s a vibrant year for local theater.
Besides, another friend quipped, “The good Lord needed someone to manage all the Souls in Soul Parade day. Who else but.”
I can imagine him dressing up the people we love in those rich, Asian-inspired robes.
Love and light, Badong Bernal. R.I.P.